Print

Science

An introduction to waves

Transverse and longitudinal waves

You should be able to describe the characteristics of transverse and longitudinal waves.

Transverse waves

Light and other types of electromagnetic radiation are transverse waves. Water waves and S waves (a type of seismic wave) are also transverse waves. In transverse waves, the vibrations are at right angles to the direction of travel.

Longitudinal waves

Sound waves and waves in a stretched spring are longitudinal waves. P waves (relatively fast moving longitudinal seismic waves that travel through liquids and solids) are also longitudinal waves. In longitudinal waves, the vibrations are along the same direction as the direction of travel.

Back to Now you see it, now you don’t index

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.